Hansard: Appropriation Bill : Debate on Budget Vote No 34 – Water Affairs and Forestry

House: National Assembly

Date of Meeting: 23 Jun 2009

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Minutes

UNREVISED HANSARD

EPC – OLD ASSEMBLY CHAMBER

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

WEDNESDAY, 24 JUNE 2009

PROCEEDINGS OF THE EXTENDED PUBLIC COMMITTEE – OLD ASSEMBLY CHAMBER

________________________

Members of the Extended Public Committee met in Committee Room E249 at 10:04.

House Chairperson Ms M N Oliphant, as Chairperson, took the Chair and requested members to observe a moment of silence for prayers or meditation.

APPROPRIATION BILL

Debate on Budget Vote No 34 – Water Affairs and Forestry:

The CHAIRPERSON (Ms M N Oliphant): Order! Firstly, I would like to welcome the hon Minister and the Deputy Minister. I call on the hon the Minister to open the debate for us.

The MINISTER OF WATER AND ENVIRONMENTAL AFFAIRS: Chairperson, hon Deputy Minister, hon members of the House, chairperson of the portfolio committee, ladies and gentlemen, water is life! Kindly allow me, hon Chairperson, to premise my address to this august assembly by stating a simple but profound fact of life: that water is life. Without water, there is no life.

Our world-renowned Constitution, the supreme law of the land, exhorts us to uphold access to water as a right for everyone, as stated in section 27(1)(b) of the Constitution. I may as well add that water is key to social and economic development and, of course, to the attainment of a better life.

To this end, the ruling party, the ANC, at its Polokwane conference highlighted, amongst other things, water allocation reform and water resource management which "must be integral when municipalities do their planning", as key deliverables for our responsive government. This was also reinforced by the President, Jacob Zuma, in his state of the nation address to the joint sitting of Parliament on 3 June 2009.

Another simple but incontrovertible fact worth mentioning is that our beloved country, South Africa, is a water-scarce country. In the face of the prevalent global economic crisis and the social contract we sealed on 9 May 2009 with the people of this country, and the concomitant rallying call to work together for a better life, a new and sophisticated level of thinking and action pertaining to water is required. Our challenge here is not so much to invent as it is to alter the way we think and act on how we use our water. We don't have the luxury of choice and time, unfortunately – we have to act now, and do so decisively.

Exactly a week ago, we were in this House presenting the environmental policy statement. We return this morning even more determined to deal earnestly with the challenges and opportunities affecting the water sector in this, the Budget Vote of Water Affairs.

Firstly, we have taken a decision to deal decisively with wrongdoers. Henceforth, we are adopting a "zero tolerance" stance on environment and water crimes. This campaign will be bolstered by our commitment to return environmental courts. We are in discussion with the Justice portfolio and other law-enforcement agencies to realise this, and within eight months we will see results.

We are in the process of expanding the mandate of environmental management inspectors to include the water aspect. The emergence of a single enforcement unit arising from the integration of the Blue and Green Scorpions will strengthen our resolve against wrongdoers.

We are going to apply the "polluter pays" principle with renewed vigour to ensure that culprits committing pollution, illegal water use, and other environmental and water crimes don't go unpunished.

We will accelerate the water allocation reform programme. Water is not only central but is also an excellent catalyst for development. It is for this reason that our water allocation programme will be playing a pivotal role in supporting government's priorities in rural development and land reform.

The department will avail water to support the pilot rural development programme announced by the President in Limpopo. We are already in discussion with the Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries regarding the role of agriculture as a major water user in our economy. Our aim is to rationalise water use and ensure equity of distribution.

IsiXhosa:

Ngolu hlobo, siya kuba sinceda nabalimi abasakhulayo, ukubanika isixa samanzi esifanele umsebenzi abawenzayo wokulima nokufuya njengoko amanzi ebalulekile kwimpumelelo yabo njengoosomashishini. Kunjalo nje, siza kuba neengxoxo eziqinileyo nabo.

English:

In this regard, we will also meet stakeholders such as Agri SA, emerging farmers and others in our attempt to deal with this matter as inclusively as possible.

We are also looking closely at the issue of single-purpose dams, which are located within communities that have no ready access to water. We have completed a study in Taung. We are ready to commission the dam so that it can benefit the communities. We will do this throughout the country where such problems exist.

But I must add that we are looking at diversifying the infrastructure that we will be constructing for water purposes. Where we can, we will avoid damming, as some areas might not need damming.

We will intensify our efforts to maintain acceptable standards in our drinking water quality. My first official function in the portfolio was to hand out certificates to 22 municipalities that qualified for Blue Drop certification. This is a clear indication of the route that the department is taking in ensuring that the water sector is well regulated. And, indeed, credit must go to my predecessor, former Minister Lindiwe Hendricks, for initiating this programme.

Through this programme, and especially the efforts of all involved, we have managed to raise the profile of drinking water quality and to name and shame those who are not complying. Municipal reporting has increased and the sector achieved an average of 93,3% compliance with microbiological limits of the national standards, which are coded as "SANS 241".

As a result, most municipalities are tightening their monitoring programmes to ensure that they comply with national norms and standards. Although the focus has been on drinking water quality, we have started assessments on waste-water treatment works to ensure compliance with effluent quality standards. I must say that this is of grave concern to me. We intend to intensify this work to ensure that our water quality standards are not compromised, especially with the hosting of the 2010 Fifa Soccer World Cup. But for me, really, South Africans deserve the best quality of water. We will have visitors, and it is important that we maintain the standards, but I think charity should begin at home, and really, that is what will be guiding us.

IsiXhosa:

Noxa siza kuyenza le migudu silisebe, sikwacela kwisizwe sethu ukuba sisebenzisane nathi ukugada ukungcoliswa kwamanzi ngandlela zonke. Abantu mabayeke ukulahla izinto ezingcolileyo kwimilambo nakwimijelo yamanzi ekufutshane kubo. Okwangoku isesisicelo esi, kodwa ukuba abantu bahlala besithi gqolo ukungcolisa amanzi nokuhlala bewaba amanzi, mabazi ukuba sizisa umthetho ongqingqwa oya kusinceda ukuphelisa le mikhuba.

English:

We will respond to the call to increase access and build adequate infrastructure. The President has reiterated the message that communities in rural areas and poor townships deserve an equal chance of access to basic amenities such as water, sanitation, electricity and recreational facilities.

To this end, we are investing R500 million in a programme to intervene in high-risk areas where there are water challenges. This special intervention programme focuses on the following areas. We will be looking at ageing infrastructure that leads to discharge of sewerage into our rivers. We will be looking at water conservation in stressed systems such as the Vaal and Umgeni. We will be looking at areas where there is illegal abstraction, for example the Upper Vaal area. And we will be looking at areas where there is no infrastructure and communities are vulnerable to waterborne diseases.

This investment will address sewerage spillages, target specific treatment facilities and asset management, and provide much-needed technical assistance to municipalities. We have identified nodal areas for focused interventions and these have been chosen based on the extent of the need for refurbishment, the extent of sewage spillages and the age and dilapidation of infrastructure.

We will continue to invest in infrastructure for social and economic development. in the next five to eight years, the department will spend approximately R30 billion on the continuing construction and establishment of 15 mega water resource infrastructure projects, increasing the capacity of existing water resource infrastructure to provide water to strategic installations such as the energy sector, the industrial sector and the mining sector and for domestic purposes.

Additional infrastructure programmes include an accelerated programme for the construction of the De Hoop Dam, the continued partnership with the government of Lesotho for the implementation of the proposed phase 2 of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project, and implementation of the project to augment supply of water to Lephalale for use by Eskom and other petrochemical industries.

Water security and security of supply remain high on our agenda. As already alluded to, we are a water-scarce country and our water resources are finite. We cannot afford an unco-ordinated programme of blue-sky water-thirsty projects. We need to be prudent in the management of this resource, since the primary source is rainfall, which cannot be guaranteed by decree. Having said that, we are working hard to ensure that there is security of supply to provide water for the growth of our economy as well as social development.

It is for this reason that our department has come up with a framework that will ensure that our water resources are managed sustainably to meet future demands. Within the context of this strategy, we are embarking on the following programmes.

We will look at diversification of our water mix, or rather, water resources, ensuring that we explore other sources of supply. For example, we will be looking at the desalination of sea water, especially in coastal areas. We are also looking at strengthening effluent, and the reuse of water.

We will intensify public awareness about the value of water, because we need to instil a culture of responsibility and change of attitude and behaviour with regard to water. We will conserve water by curbing water losses by at least 20% by 2014.

IsiXhosa:

Sihlaba ikhwelo kubantu bakuthi, lokuba baqaphele ukuba ilizwe lethu alinawo amanzi. Iimvula esizifumanayo azisiniki manzi awonele yonke imisebenzi esiyenzayo sililizwe. Loo nto ke ithetha ukuba, amanzi esiwafumanayo masiwonge.

Le meko yokunqongophala kwamanzi yenziwa maxongo nangakumbi ziimeko zembalela ezihamba nenkqubo yokuguquka kwemo zezulu kwilizwekazi liphela, into apha amakhumsha ayibiza ukuba yi-climate change. Siza kubuya sileli sebe sibafundise abantu beli lizwe ukuze babe nolwazi oluphangaleleyo ngale climate change. Okwangoku, umyalezo wam mnye: Sebenzisa amanzi ngononophelo wena mhlali!

English:

We will act hard and decisively against defaulters and punish wrongdoing. We will strengthen our regulatory capacity and assist municipalities.

We realize that none of the above can be achieved without strong partnerships with other departments and with the private sector, but, most importantly, a partnership with the people of South Africa. We also appreciate the negative impact that lack of skills has on service delivery. The department is doing its best, working with the private sector and other countries, in the context of bilateral co-operation, to ensure that we build the required pool of skills to take the South African water sector forward.

Of course to achieve this, you need a motivated workforce and an organisation that is systematically geared up to perform. Internally we have initiated what we call a change journey which aims at rekindling the culture of commitment and service, improvement of our business processes and the creation of a dynamic culture of transparency, respect and excellence for everyone.

At this point, Chair, allow me to express appreciation to the following people: The Deputy Minister for the support that he always gives to me, and guidance of course; the chairperson of the portfolio committee, who is a very energetic individual who will provide much-needed leadership in this portfolio committee; and of course the officials who are always hard at work. I also apologise because sometimes the tendency is to abuse them. They did not have a weekend – they spent their weekend with me working very hard, and I need to express my appreciation at this podium. Thank you very much, Chairperson. [Applause.]

Ms M M SOTYU / GM/MC(Xhs)/JEEND OF TAKE

The MINISTER OF WATER AND ENVIRONMENTAL AFFAIRS

IsiXhosa:

Nkz M M SOTYU: Ndiyabulela Sihlalo, ndiyabulela Mphathiswa, hayi awuphazamanga siza kusebenza kakuhle sobabini. Ndithanda le nto yokuba le komiti inikelwe koomama,mayibe sithi abayibalekisayo, hayi iza kubaleka, baza kubaleka ootata apha.

English:

When South Africa's first nonracist democratic government took over in April 1994, the country's population was just over 40 million people. Of this, 15,2 million - 12 million of whom lived in rural areas - lacked access to basic water supply and 20,5 million lacked basic sanitation.

The newly elected government strongly located basic services for citizens of the country within a rights–based approach. South Africa is one of the few countries in the world that formally recognises water as a human right. Its national water and sanitation programme, which is one of the largest national programmes in Africa, aims to deliver in a sustainable manner on this right. Both the recognition of water as a human right and the development of the national water and sanitation programme derive from the advent of challenges relating to water supply and sanitation in 1994.

As alluded to by the Minister, the right to have access to sufficient water is provided for in section 27(1)(b) of the South African Constitution. Section 27(2) provides that the state must take reasonable legislative and other measures to respect, protect, promote and fulfil the progressive realisation of the right to access to water within its available resources. The right to have access to water can be seen to place two interrelated but distinct obligations on the state. That is, it must ensure that all people have physical access to water, and it must also ensure that all people have economic access to water.

While many of government's most successful initiatives have heralded water programmes since 1994, there is concern about the methods that have been used: the consultation process, the use of privatisation schemes and, most importantly, the sustainability and maintenance of operations and completed projects. Overall, the 1996 Constitution of the Republic of South Africa places a duty on the three spheres of government to work together in order to ensure that the wellbeing of the people of the country is secured.

The role of the department has changed as a result of the transformation of the water sector in South Africa. Water services have been devolved to municipalities that are now water services authorities, and water resources management will be delegated to Catchment Management Agencies, CMAs. Hon Buyelwa Sonjica, there is no doubt that your department is destined for bigger things. We shall continue to look up to you as we discharge our oversight responsibility as the portfolio committee.

It is correct to raise some of the challenges that all of us need to confront. The National Water Act, Act 36 of 1998, which is piece of postapartheid legislation among other things, talks about the establishment of the CMAs which are supposed to manage our water resources in a sustainable manner. The CMAs are a strategic vehicle that ought to facilitate the management of water resources at a local level. They give local people an opportunity to manage their water resources. They make both the quantity and quality a core responsibility of the government and local communities. It is observable, however, since the promulgation of the National Water Act in 1998 to date, that there are only two semifunctioning CMAs. These are the Breede-Overberg CMA in the Western Cape and the Inkomati CMA in Mpumalanga. To my mind, Comrade Minister, these CMAs are there to supplement your department in making a better life for all. Yet, there is already concern that these CMAs have not been given their delegations in addition to their initial functions. Secondly, there seems to be recurring challenges in so far as their budget is concerned. Hon Minister, I request that you give us a timeframe that indicates a programme of action that will ensure, as government, that we create institutions that are fully functional and properly delegated to discharge their responsibilities.

Climate change challenges are as real as the sun in the sky. Hence, it is important to have institutions that are proactive in meeting these challenges. These institutions are not only there to fix taps. Fixing these institutions is as important as fixing the taps. Although the Act does not prescribe the numbers of these agencies, it is very clear why these agencies should be established.

I would also like to raise another point that we as a country cannot afford to create 17 more CMAs in addition to the ones we have already established. I am aware that the department has already initiated an institutional realignment exercise aimed at, among others things, scaling down the number of CMAs that need to be established. I urge you, my Minister, to ensure that such an important exercise does not become an endless initiative.

What is the timeframe for the institutional realignment exercise? Your department must be in a position to respond to all these questions that are directed to you. I am raising these issues based on the demands put before us by the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa , Act 108 of 1996. It states that, and I quote:

Everyone has the right -

(a) to an environment that is not harmful to their health or wellbeing; and

(b) to have the environment protected, for the benefit of present and future generations, through reasonable legislative and other measures that -

(i) prevent pollution and ecological degradation;

(ii) promote conservation; and

(iii) secure ecologically sustainable development and use of natural resources while promoting justifiable economic and social development.

The key strategic priority for the department and its main focus for the Medium-Term Expenditure Framework period, as identified in the 2005-06 financial year, to the 2011-12 strategic plan remain as follows: meeting water and sanitation targets; managing South Africa's scarce water resources for long-term sustainability; and supporting the development of water resource infrastructure.

The budget allocation for the Department of Water and Environmental Affairs has increased from R7 billion in the 2008-09 financial year to approximately R7,9 billion for the 2009-10 financial year, which is a 12,2% increase in normal terms. There are a number of challenges facing the department with regard to, amongst other things, the filling of vacancies, the recruitment of people with special skills and remuneration packages offered by government. Remuneration packages are outstripped by those offered by sectors competing with the department.

In state of the nation addresses from 2004 to 2009, the main government priorities that were identified in the water, sanitation and forestry sectors were, among other things: to provide clean and potable water to the millions of South Africans; to provide more than 300 000 households with basic sanitation; to strengthen and promote the capacity of local government; to eradicate the bucket system; and to speed up the process of building infrastructure to achieve economic and social growth.

It must be noted that the Auditor-General has given qualified audit opinions to the department for the past six financial years. The audit opinions expressed for the department were system-related matters, as in an inadequate financial reporting system, an inadequate business process and inadequate nonfinancial reporting system whose root causes were, amongst other things, high vacancy levels and lack of financial skills; unapproved human resource plan and commitments; and material changes to annual financial statements.

Water boards have been established as service providers that report to the Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs. The boards manage water services in their supply areas and provide potable water at cost-effective prices. The impact of their financial performance on the department has been limited. Out of 14 water boards, seven provide retail services to municipalities in their supply areas and have service delivery agreements in place.

IsiXhosa:

Sihlalo siyathemba siyikomiti ukuthi amalinge athatyathwe liSebe ukuzama ukulungisa undonakele esimphawulileyo aza kuza nomvuzo oncumisayo, ukusuka kumbhexeshi wezezimali zoluntu kwixesha elizayo.

Sesotho:

Modulasetulo, ebile re a tshepa hape hore selemong sena sa dichelete sa 2009-10 re tla bona tse kgahlisang fela ho tloha lefapheng la rona la tsa metsi.

English:

The apartheid-era legislation governing water did not discriminate directly on the grounds of race, but on the racial imbalances in ownership of land that resulted in the disproportionate denial to black people of the right to water. Access to the limited water resources in South Africa had been dominated by those with access to land and economic power. As a result, the majority of South Africans have struggled to secure the right to water. Property and water rights pose a challenge to emerging farmers in South Africa.

IsiXhosa:

Sicela uMphathiswa ukuthi abone ukuthi aba balimi bethu basakhasayo abanikwa mhlaba kodwa banganikwa amanzi. Siyaluxhasa olu hlahlo lwabiwo mali lwaManzi; iindaba azipheli, ixesha lixhatshwe yinja. Siyabulela. [Kwaqhwatywa.]

Ms A T LOVEMORE / /LN/keh(Eng)/END OF TAKE

Ms M M SOTYU

Ms A T LOVEMORE: Chairperson, hon Minister, Deputy Minister and members, this department aims to manage effectively the nation's water resources to meet the needs of current and future generations.

Departmental officials and the Water Research Commission warned in 2003 that the nation was facing a water crisis, and that the nation's water resources were not being entirely effectively managed.

Despite this, the previous Minister emphatically denied the existence of any looming crisis. Minister, you were present a fortnight ago when your officials presented a frightening picture of the current state of water affairs. Your pronouncements since then have certainly been promising.

I trust that you will not follow your predecessor's example and deny that South Africans are facing a water crisis. We are, we must admit this, and we must take the requisite steps to provide our nation with a safe and sustainable supply of water.

There is no doubting the achievements of the department over the years. We all applaud the provision of water and sanitation to more than a million households over the past five years. The remaining water and sanitation backlogs were scheduled to have been addressed by 2008 and 2010 respectively.

However, disturbingly, a 2008 Cabinet decision aligned the provision of universal access to water and sanitation with the provision of housing. So the new target for ensuring universal access to basic services is now 2014. Pressure must now be exerted on the Department of Human Settlements to allow even this target to be achieved.

The budget identifies 2 634 schools that have yet to be provided with water supply or sanitation services. How do pupils learn when they do not have access to a tap or a toilet; how do they reach their potential? I note that in the budget that there is a roll-out of rainwater harvesting tanks in rural areas, and the DA trusts that the priority area will be these schools.

The department has stated that all four large metros need serious consideration with respect to water supply and demand scenarios. The budget proposes a revision of the National Water Resource Strategy. How is it, though, that the last revision did not result in the prevention of the serious situation we are now faced with?

Another seemingly ill-advised Cabinet decision, made in December last year, has resulted in water conservation and demand management being implemented through co-operation with municipalities. Now, we support decentralisation, but the vast majority of municipalities in South Africa have either only one or, in fact, no water engineers in their employ. [Interjections.]

The vast majority of municipalities are unable to provide their residents with safe drinking water. The proposal that they be entrusted with the management of our water supply and demand is highly questionable. Catchments management agencies, as mentioned by our chair, with appropriate skills and the involvement of all relevant sectors might provide a more realistic option.

I return to the important issue of safe drinking water. The 2009 Blue Drop Report to which you alluded, Minister, should have indeed been cause for celebration. Instead, it was a cause for great disquiet. Of 145 water service authorities, only 22 achieved Blue Drop status.

Minister, the constitutional right, which has been refereed to, of access to sufficient water must surely imply the right of access to sufficient safe water. [Interjections.]

The CHAIRPERSON (Ms M N Oliphant): Order, please! Order, hon members!

Ms A T LOVEMORE: The Blue Drop Report includes comments such as "urgent intervention is required" and "drastic improvement needed".

The Water Services Act, Minister, allows you to request or direct the relevant province to intervene if a water service authority has not effectively performed any function imposed on it. The Act further allows you to intervene directly should the province concerned not take appropriate action. Minister, the Water Services Act also empowers you to constitute an advisory committee on any matter of concern falling within the scope of the Act. This is such a matter.

Clean drinking water is critical for the maintenance of human health. Only healthy citizens are truly able to embrace the opportunities in their lives.

However, most South Africans, alarmingly, are unaware of whether or not their water is safe to drink, nor can they easily find out. I questioned the quality of drinking water in my home municipality of Nelson Mandela Bay last year. I was forced to utilise the provisions of the Promotion of Access to Information Act. After 30 days, I received a set of highly disturbing water quality results that were two months out of date. The public has a right to be informed about the threats of poor water quality where they exist.

The DA would certainly ensure that water quality data is regularly published by municipalities and made available freely, and that a national hotline is established to allow citizens to alert officials to local problems. I trust, Minister, that you will seriously consider this positive recommendation.

It has been noted that our rivers are seriously affected by unlawful water use, by overabstraction and by pollution. Both eco-viability and human utilisation of our water resources are compromised.

The department will increase, according to the budget, the number of monitoring stations along our rivers. Good news. However, none of the current monitoring stations examines the bacteriological quality of our river water. Eight Eastern Cape people died recently apparently after drinking polluted river water. A mechanism for monitoring microbial levels must be implemented to prevent further unnecessary deaths.

Sewage from scores of badly run municipal treatment works is spilling into rivers across the country every day. In May 2006, three years ago, Dr Heidi Snyman presented the results of research carried out on behalf of the department. She had carried out a detailed analysis of 51 of the country's sewage treatment works, and she said: "Immediate intervention is required at approximately 30% of the plants in order to avoid crisis situations such as an outbreak of waterborne diseases." She found that short to medium-term intervention was necessary at 66% of the sampled plants. It was also necessary to hire up to 3 000 suitably skilled technicians to operate plants.

Dr Snyman concluded that the majority of small to medium plants were in her words "in trouble" and unable to comply with government standards for purified waste-water discharges into rivers.

Now, startlingly, the department presented us a fortnight ago with almost precisely the figures presented by Dr Snyman in 2006. We have the legislative tools that enable the requisite intervention. How can we turn a blind eye to a circumstance that can prove fatal?

Ground water comprises 9% of our national water resources. The department estimates that more than 400 towns use ground water for domestic purposes. Our ground water is as much under threat as our surface water.

Once an aquifer is polluted, it will remain in that state indefinitely. Rehabilitation is expensive, it is time-consuming, and success is limited. Thus, prevention of the problem is all the more important. The omission of any mention of ground water monitoring or protection in the budget is serious. I hope it is an error. It must be rectified.

Acid mine drainage, or AMD, is one of the greatest environmental threats that this country currently faces. The legacy of our gold and coal mining industries over the past century now poses a significant threat to the security of our water.

The Water for Growth and Development Framework notes that AMD poses a threat to water quality in terms of salinity, in terms of levels of sulphates and in terms of heavy metals. The report sounds a clear warning when it says this, and I quote:

Various studies predict that AMD will entirely decant into the central basin within three and a half years. This situation not only represents a potential environmental catastrophe, but also threatens the structural integrity of the Johannesburg city centre.

Government now needs to work with the mines and the scientific and engineering communities to solve this problem. Government and private-sector investment is needed to solve the problem. Political leadership will be key to bringing the necessary stakeholders together.

My colleague Gareth Morgan noted in his contribution to the Environmental Affairs Budget Vote debate last week that the Minister needs to appoint a mining forum to deal with, among other things, where mining can be permitted and where it cannot, but it would be incumbent on such a forum to tackle the AMD problem as well.

The DA was pleased to read late last year that the Blue Scorpions would be taking – again, as was mentioned this mentioned - a zero-tolerance approach to water crimes, and that a dedicated prosecution mechanism would be established with the co-operation of the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development.

Your statement on Monday, Minister, and repeated this morning that environmental courts will be operational within eight months, is welcomed, as is the intention to force mines to employ competent people to deal with pollution.

Minister, algal toxins in many of the bulk-water storage dams in Gauteng and surrounds pose a serious threat to human health. In the USA, UK and New Zealand dams with lower levels of toxins are closed. We have yet to see anything similar in South Africa which has levels of impact orders of magnitude higher than elsewhere.

The Roodeplaat Dam near Pretoria has been grossly affected by nutrient enrichment for some time now. This has resulted in toxic algal blooms and water surfaces covered by water hyacinth. Now, starting at Hartbeespoort Dam and extending to Roodeplaat, the Department of Water Affairs has come up with the ill-conceived notion that allowing this noxious, proclaimed algal weed to grow on these dams for the purposes of harvesting for economic gain, apparently for earthworm composting, is a good idea.

In closing then, our country is mostly semi-arid. It is prone to droughts - a situation which is likely to worsen with climate change and increased competition for scarce water resources. The departmental demand scenario indicates a shortage of water occurring as early as 2013.


I return to one of my opening statements: Minister, the DA trusts that you will not follow in your predecessor's footsteps and deny that South Africans are facing a water crisis. We are. We must admit this, and take the requisite steps to provide our nation with a safe and sustainable supply of water. [Applause.]

Ms H N NDUDE /ES / END OF TAKE /

Ms A T LOVEMORE

UMHLANGAPHAMBILI (Nksk M N Oliphant): Enkosi Lungu elohloniphekileyo. Kuzakulandela umhlonitshwa u H N Ndude. Kodwa phambi kokuthi akhulume ngizocela ukuthi amalungu ahloniphekile, avale oomakhal'ekhukhwini babo. Mangabe mhlawumbi uwutheng'izolo ucele osecaleni kwakho akuncedis'ukuyivala. [Kwaqhwatywa.]

Ms H N NDUDE: Chairperson, Ministers and hon members, we feel as Cope an enormous opportunity was missed to rename this department properly – to "Climate Change, Water Affairs and Environment." [Interjections.]

The CHAIRPERSON (Ms M N Oliphant): Order, hon members!

Ms H N NDUDE: As a country we should wake up to the considerable impact that climate change is going to have on our fresh water security. [Interjections.]

The CHAIRPERSON (Ms M N Oliphant): Order, please!

Ms C N NDUDE: Climate, forests and water are all directly interlinked. Ireland has already named such a department. We cannot afford to exclude climate change from any consideration of water. Looking at the budget, it is clear that such a consideration was not given the importance it warranted.

Hon members must learn to listen, because climate change is affecting all of us. [Interjections.] Howling does not help.

The CHAIRPERSON (Ms M N Oliphant): Order, please!

Ms H N NDUDE: We are talking about issues that affect the country here, not politics. [Interjections.]

The CHAIRPERSON (Ms M N Oliphant): Order, please!

Ms H N NDUDE: This is very irresponsible of the department and has to be corrected. Our future and that of our grandchildren depends on our approach to this question. Cope calls on the Minister not to let what happened to Eskom happen in respect of water, because the situation is dire.

IsiXhosa:

Awuziva nangoku awuyazi, nokuba yintoni na.

English:

They are just busy howling. [Interjections.] They don't even know what I am talking about.

The CHAIRPERSON (Ms M N Oliphant): Order, hon members!

Ms H N NDUDE: They are just good as howlers. That's all, you know.

Ms H N NDUDE: When it comes to water, we are also accustomed to talking about leaks. The Department of Water Affairs and Forestry has need for more than a plumber to fix its many leaks of valuable budgetary rand. In a report tabled by the Auditor-General in August 2008, it was reported that a chief industrial technician at the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry had approved a payment of R171 000 to a company owned by a spouse. Tax invoices from the company to the department were made out for the attention of "the chief industrial technician". How very convenient and comradely! The question we would like to ask is: What happened to the technician? Was he fired or promoted?

Another recurring problem within the department is the finalisation of the fixed asset register. The Minister is constitutionally duty-bound to inform Parliament of the progress made in finalising the asset register. This is a matter that goes back many years. The department holds that it has R2,2 billion worth of property, plant and equipment but no register exists to prove this.

However, what should concern all of us is the failure of the department to record even recent acquisitions. Machinery and equipment recently acquired for about 44 million has not been substantiated in the fixed asset register. How does one explain this? Is this now fixed? [Interjections.] Could the Minister assure the House that such a problem with current assets will never occur again under her stewardship?

On a related matter, could we also have categorical assurance from the Minister that all invoices relating to services received before year-end have all been included in the current financial statement?

Going by the history of the department, one is interested to ask whether transfers in terms of the Division of Revenue Act, Act 2 of 2006, to municipalities were effected on time, and whether these were made strictly in accordance with schedule 7 of the Division of Revenue Act in terms of the Public Finance Management Act, PFMA. The department is required to obtain assurances ... [Interjections.] I have brains to think, sir.

The department is required to obtain assurances from the municipalities to which advances are being made to prove that they have had effective, efficient and transparent financial management and internal control systems, as required by section 38(1)(J) of the PFMA. You don't know that. [Interjections.] Is the department adhering strictly to those requirements? We need categorical assurance from the Minister.

It is about time the hon Minister began to take a firm grip of her department, so that she can ensure that policies and procedures exist to facilitate effective monitoring, evaluation and corrective action. The department cannot continue to operate in contravention of Treasury Regulations or that of PFMA. What she has to do has already been itemised in the main by the portfolio Committee in its report.

The following are the items listed for the Minister to tackle: review and align policy systems and procedures; review and improve document management systems immediately; strengthen management oversight in respect of record management; initiate frequent random audits within the department; clean up and update Persal immediately and ensure alignment of the Basic Administration System and Persal systems; fill all critical posts with qualified professionals who can do the job; implement paypoint separation between the water trading entity and main accounts; implement a coaching programme for all senior managers in the corporate service branch; address challenges of organisational culture through change management interventions; deal quickly and decisively with Eskom's overusage of water for power generation; deal decisively and ruthlessly with the lack of infrastructure management by provincial and local government; closely monitor the national water crisis; strengthen performance management and deal firmly with inadequate performance; and table the Water Services Strategy report with the portfolio committee without delay.

Once again, in the 2008-09 Auditor-General's report - the latest one - the internal audit functions within the department did not substantially fulfil its responsibility. How can Parliament approve funds for such a department?

The latest report of the Auditor-General also shows that of four Scopa resolutions that were submitted to the department for attention, not one of them has been implemented. Understandably, the matter of the assets register is complex but every year should see progress.

Parliament should only approve a quarter of the requested budget. Thank you. [Time expired.] [Applause.]

The CHAIRPERSON (Ms M N Oliphant): Order, please! Hon members, could you please allow the Minister to hear what the members are saying, because at the end of the debate the Minister has to respond. I now call the hon C N Zikalala. [Interjections.]

Order, please!

Ms C N Z ZIKALALA

END OF TAKE

Mrs H N NDUDE

Ms C N Z ZIKALALA: Hon Chairperson, Ministers ...

The CHAIRPERSON (Ms M N Oliphant): Hon Ndude, could you please switch off your microphone.

Ms H N NDUDE: Ake nithule.

Ms C Z N ZIKALALA: ... the work of this department has a direct impact on the quality of life of all South Africans as it has the important task of ensuring that they have access to water. Without water, government's economic and social objectives will not be met.

The CHAIRPERSON (Ms M N Oliphant): Order, hon members! Hon Mluleki Goerge, you must not pass between the Chair and the member who's speaking. I just want to appeal to the Whippery to teach their members what to do and what the procedures of the House are. You may continue, hon member.

Mr N SINGH: Injury time for her, Madam.

Ms C N Z ZIKALALA Chairperson ... Please! ... and people will be confined to living lives of misery.

The amount allocated to this department increases from R7 billion in the 2008-09 financial year to about R7,9 billion in the 2009-10 financial year. We hope that it will be spent wisely. The improvement and maintenance of our water infrastructure is of paramount importance and if we are to avoid a water crisis, similar to the energy crisis, then the department must ensure that it is staffed with people who have the necessary technical skills and expertise and that proper plans are in place to efficiently utilise our scarce water resources in a suitable manner. This is important for our long-term growth and development.

There have been warnings from various organisations about a looming water crisis. These must be heeded, and interaction with various stakeholders and organisations must occur on an ongoing basis so that identified problems can be addressed and major catastrophes avoided. The pollution of our water sources and catchment areas and poor water quality can, and must, be prevented.

The IFP represents some of the poorest people in South Africa, many of whom live in rural areas. The lack of access to water in some of these areas is not only sad but unacceptable. Whilst water is available at the turn of a tap for us, the many people who live in the rural and forgotten areas such as Jozini or Bushbuckridge struggle every day just to get enough water to perform their daily chores and survive.

This greatly hampers their development and makes their struggle to escape the lives of poverty in which they find themselves so much more difficult. There are water sources such as the Inyaka and Jozini dams that are able to supply the local communities with water but which are not being utilised properly for this purpose. This is a situation which needs to be corrected urgently. The department must ensure that the water resources in these areas are used, first and foremost, to address efficiently the water needs of the local communities. Water must also be made available for the economic needs of these communities.

It is when you go to these areas and see how people suffer to get their water that you realise just how important water actually is and how many people take it for granted. The sight of people carrying water from rivers or queuing in long lines just to get access to one tap is really heartbreaking. This department can transform and improve the lives of these people by ensuring a reliable supply of water. The IFP supports the Budget Vote. I thank you. [Applause.]

Mr S ABRAM / nb/END OF TAKE

Ms C N Z ZIKALALA

Mnu S ABRAM: Mhali ngaphambili, sibambisene singenza lukhulu.

English:

I want to congratulate the hon Minister and Deputy Minister on their appointments to this all-important post of Water and Environmental Affairs. At the same time, I wish to remind hon members that the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry, whose budget we are considering today, has received qualified audits over the past five years.

As a member of the Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Water Affairs and Forestry I will basically be participating in respect of the Forestry sector. I also wish to state upfront that most of my information, I have been able to glean from press reports and other sources.

Our forestry industry basically grows pine, blue gum and wattle trees. Pine trees have the longest rotational period, namely 28 years. Blue gum trees grow from 20 to 22 years to maturity, but poles can be harvested from the seventh year. Wattle, which is mainly used for paper production, takes between three and five years to grow. The state-owned SA Forestry Company Ltd, or Safcol, along with its subsidiary Komatiland Forests, dominates the pine and gum logs market, retaining interests in numerous other partially privatised forests. In the past decade it was able to raise timber prices by almost 500%, and smaller growers followed suit. Small operators and sawmills became totally dependent on this parastatal giant.

Afrikaans:

Die Tunbadola-saagmeulens is staatseiendom en derhalwe is Safcol-Komatiland se bedrywe in kompetisie met die breë burgery. Daar word beweer dat talle privaatsaagmeulens tans deur hulle gehuur word om hout te bêre. Mynbou en die konstruksiebedryf is tradisionele verbruikers, gevolg deur onder meer die meubelbedryf.

Met die ekonomiese afplatting is daar tans oor die half miljoen ton ronde hout in voorraad by die staatsbedrewe bedrywe, of so word beweer. Intussen was daar 14% loonverhogings en verlede jaar het Safcol-Komatiland 'n voorbelastingswins van R870 miljoen gepos – glad nie indrukwekkend as in ag geneem word dat R530 miljoen van dié bedrag blykbaar die herevaluering van sogenaamde "biologiese bates" verteenwoordig het, wat ook al dié term mag beteken.

English:

I question whether this is ingenuity or disingenuity, and we will subject the forestry people and, of course, Safcol-Komatiland, to rigorous oversight going forward. Be prepared!

We are informed that the larger, private-sector-owned York Timbers is considering downscaling operations by about 50%, which will also entail closing down up to five sawmills. At Tweefontein in Mpumalanga, the Hans Merensky Trust is rumoured to be planning to cease its operations in August. Several other smaller sawmills are said to be contemplating closure.

Fires in the recent past have ravaged approximately 76 000 hectares of forests in our country which contributes to the stockpile of timber, currently at its highest in many, many years. In the midst of this gloomy picture, Safcol awarded its CEO and its departing financial director performance bonuses of R2,2 million, a further R6,7 million in settlement packages, in addition to their salaries and bonuses totalling R3,43 million per year, thus adding up to a whopping R13 million. Something, Mhlali ngaphambili [Chairperson], is not right in Safcol-Komatiland, and they will be held accountable.

The forestry sector has not been appropriately profiled and is still seen as a last employment resort for unskilled workers. The vast majority of forestry employees are indeed, unfortunately, illiterate and innumerate. HIV and Aids infection rates amongst workers are also said to be of concern and not properly addressed. On a professional level, the industry also has a very high staff turnover rate and is losing scarce and core skills at an alarming rate.

Forestry land use decreased by 14,9% between 1996 and 2007, and very little new afforestation has taken place in the past decade. As a result, the country is currently facing timber shortages which will affect the government's intentions of achieving a 6% economic growth rate. In addition, the forest industry in terms of land use is excessively regulated - for example, through water licences, environmental authorisations, land use change, labour, etc – and its research and development activities require more resources, notwithstanding addressing skills shortages.

Land reform is also one of the challenges of the forestry sector in which as much as 50% of the current plantations could be under claim. This factor and the lack of tenure security affect long-term investment in forestry enterprises.

This is further aggravated by the fact that forestry is a business that requires large amounts of capital to be invested over a long rotation period, and lack of access to funding for working capital is a big challenge. In addition, the department is also faced with the transfer of forests to communities that have no management, business or technical skills. The lack of effective post-settlement support has also resulted in the failure of some of the land reform projects in the sector. This challenge puts the sustainability of new ventures in forestry in jeopardy in terms of the resource, employment and livelihoods.

Forestry is also threatened on a daily basis by damage from fires, pests and diseases. This damage escalated dramatically in the past few years. Damage from pests and diseases is estimated at R150 million for forests and R612 million for processing, while that from fires in 2007 is estimated at R2 billion for forests and R6 billion for processing – colossal amounts. This calls for more focus on the effective implementation of policies, legislation and regulations to protect the resources. Otherwise, these external threats will continue to wreak havoc on the country's forest resources.

In addition, climate change will also have a significant impact on forestry. However, forestry can also play a meaningful role in the adaptation to, and mitigation of, the impact of climate change through afforestation and greening projects.

It is said that one needs at least seven trees in order to provide sufficient oxygen per individual. I want to plead with our people that this is a resource that we need to nurture, that we need to look after. I want to appeal to the department of forestry - I don't know if any of their officials are present here today - to make trees available for our population wherever they are in the townships, villages, etc, and not for planting on the pavements in the townships but for gardens alongside the fences next to the pavements. This is so that they can take ownership of the trees and, in so doing, contribute not only to the greening of our towns, cities and townships, but also to the creation and production of more oxygen.

Furthermore, in the recent past, since November 2008, there have been layoffs in terms of job losses in the forestry industry. At least 1 500 to 1 600 jobs have been lost, and I am given to understand that currently approximately 600 jobs are on the line.

In terms of fire-fighting and protection, with the good rains we had last season for which we are truly grateful, the material that can catch fire has increased. In these times, with winter setting in, it is important to see to it that the necessary fire-fighting equipment is made available. I understand that in Limpopo there is only one helicopter with a thousand-litre tank available to fight forest fires. This is totally inadequate. Government will have to come to the party. We will have, increasingly, to empower especially the people that have been resettled on forestry property in terms of land reform. We must empower them in terms of skills and training, and assist them in doing all the things that are necessary to ...

The CHAIRPERSON (Mr M B Skhosana): Hon member, you have one minute left.

Mr S ABRAM: Thank you, Chairperson. It is extremely important that we don't just place people on land and then forget about them, something that has been the practice until now. We need to see that there is aftercare, that there is support and that there is assistance for those people. We, virtually, have to take those people by the hand and walk the road along with them. Let me give the warning that the upturn in the economy is coming, and when it comes South Africa will not have enough timber. All the stockpiles we have at the moment will be used up, and we will have to import timber and we will have to pay dearly for the housing projects we want to build for our people in which timber is an essential element. Thank you very much, Chair. I hope I am within my time. [Applause.]

Ms C DUDLEY/ END OF TAKE

Mr S ABRAM

Ms C DUDLEY: Thank you, Chair. Hon Minister, the ACDP notes the increased budget allocation of 6,4% in real terms but acknowledges that, as in previous years, the department's budget is dominated by transfers and subsidies to departmental agencies for the construction of critical water resource infrastructure.

While the water services programme has increased from R2,4 billion to R2,7 billion this year, the actual operations aspect of water services saw a real decrease of 23,6%. Now we know that these are funds being transferred for use at a local level, but this programme is meant to ensure that all people of South Africa have access to adequate, sustainable, viable, safe, appropriate and affordable water and sanitation services, that water is wisely used and that safe sanitation is practised.

Operation Gcina'manzi has done much to maintain and improve water supply, and the ACDP commends the department on it. Major problems, however, appear to be gaining momentum over the introduction of household meters in high-density areas. It seems the controversial meters, which automatically operate after free water is used up, are not addressing situations in which there are large numbers of people in a household, sometimes as many as 21.

When there are babies in a house, this means even less for the others as nappies must be washed. The presence of these meters is now sadly associated with the hardships being experienced. Protesting women, wearing bloody underwear to express their plight, appear to have gotten their message across, and the Gauteng South High Court has ruled that the installation of the prepaid meters in Soweto was unconstitutional, because it discriminated against poor people.

Hon Minister, we do not envy you this situation. Clearly, there is a problem with payment for water in high-density population areas. However, it appears that a countrywide roll-out of meters could cause an uprising, one which may have been inspired the ANC in their campaign against the City of Cape Town's prepaid water meters in the run-up to the elections.

Does this budget make any allocation for there to be a workable solution to address this problem? Thank you, hon Minister. [Time expired.]

The CHAIRPERSON (Mr M B Skhosana): I now call the hon Deputy Minister of Foreign ... oh, Water and Environmental Affairs; not Foreign Affairs.

The DEPUTY MINISTER OF WATER AND ENVIRONMENTAL AFFAIRS/ END OF TAKE

Ms C DUDLEY

The DEPUTY MINISTER OF WATER AND ENVIRONMENTAL AFFAIRS: Chairperson, thank you for giving me an extra portfolio by saying "Foreign Affairs".

Hon Chairperson, hon chairperson of the portfolio committee, Minister, Members of Parliament, chief executive officers of public entities, nongovernmental organisations, distinguished guests, and ladies and gentlemen, I'm sure we all acknowledge that water is a very precious resource, without which there would be no development or life itself. Yet, we take it for granted.

There is no doubt that water is the most fundamental and indispensable natural resource necessary to meet the socioeconomic needs of South Africa as a developmental state. As a department, we therefore have a responsibility to ensure that we provide water to support all the development objectives our country has set, especially poverty alleviation and rural development.

South Africa remains one of the few countries in the world that regard water as a basic human right to realise development and an improved quality of life for all. We have made significant progress with our backlogs. The number of people without access to water had decreased from 15 million to 3,4 million by April 2006, thereby achieving the eighth Millennium Development Goal.

While acknowledging the existing programmes and successes, we share the same concern with our sister department, the Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs, in that the country meet two primary objectives, namely ensuring that the Millennium Developmental Goals are met; and that all South Africans have access to safe drinking water and sanitation services.

In olden times, to have safe drinking water people used their indigenous knowledge to protect the sources of water. What has happened in the rural areas where there are still springs? Are they protected? We are happy that as government we've taken this into consideration. For example, in the Free State there is "Sediba sa mantsupa". We are busy with a programme to try to protect these springs, as they are used for religious purposes.

We, therefore, need to strengthen our support to local government and regulate the water sector to ensure that future generations have water resources to meet growing needs. Within the context of poverty alleviation, which is one of the crucial challenges facing the country, the notion of water for development alludes to the role of water in the alleviation of poverty and to communities' constitutional right to have access to a source of safe and reliable drinking water. The department is deeply concerned about the persistent backlogs in particular parts of the country where communities are vulnerable to waterborne disease like cholera.

In the past few years, before the global recession set in, our country experienced growth in economic activity. This required adequate water at the right place and of the right quality. On the other hand, this growth and development challenges come at a time when global climate change is negative. We are, therefore, in the process of developing a response strategy which will ensure that the vulnerable poor are protected against the harsh realities of climate change.

Despite the progress that we have made, a significant trend has been increased poverty in women, the extent to which varies from province to province. Migration from the rural to the urban areas has had an impact on infrastructure in our urban areas and has also deepened rural underdevelopment. Our department is therefore looking at reformulating policies and restructuring programmes to address such trends.

In order to achieve the social objectives that our country has set, we will restructure our programmes in such a way that they create more jobs and have a real, positive impact on the lives of the poor. Job creation will be central to all our programmes, particularly programmes such as the Working for Water programme, the Water Conservation programme and the Water Allocation Reform programme.

I'm happy: the Working for Water group is up there with the Working for Fire group. Halala. [Applause.] You are very important. When Professor Wangari Maathai came to the country we visited them and we also joined in in the jogging. She so admired this programme that she requested we take also take this programme to Kenya.

Our department is also looking at mechanisms to create more jobs in the building of infrastructure at local government level by planning well in advance and using very labour-intensive methods. We have already started this initiative in terms of our big infrastructure programmes such as the building of big dams like the De Hoop Dam and others.

Our department has committed to a policy of continual improvement of the management of the infrastructure, guided by the best international practice. In response to the President's directive for developmental projects, our department will spend in the region of R30 billion in the next five to eight years to roll out the construction and establishment of mega water resources, targeting more vulnerable areas. Work has begun on 12 dams already and we are satisfied with the progress so far.

Rolling out additional bulk infrastructure and technical advice to municipalities will help reduce the level of noncompliance in sanitation, especially compliance with set standards on sewage treatment plans. Actually, we think this sewage can be used to generate energy and this will then relieve the impact of the load we have in terms of energy.

The department also has an obligation to ensure equitable and sustainable use of water resources and has the responsibility to implement effective compliance, monitoring and enforcement structures to ensure lawful water use. To this effect, the department will be submitting in the not-distant future.

It is a well-established fact that in the rural and urban areas women and children are central in the collection of water for their households from sources located at long distances. Therefore, we say that as women we are the custodians of water and the environment. [Applause.] This is despite the fact that domestic water is used for processing and preparing food for drinking, bathing and washing, for irrigating home gardens and watering livestock.

Women know the location, reliability and quality of local water resources. Effective gender mainstreaming is therefore our priority, as we recognise that women have a central role to play in development. Our strategy to address this challenge includes the involvement of women and the youth in our programmes. We have organised a week-long youth summit scheduled to start officially next week on 29 June 2009 and to go until 3 July 2009. So we are inviting all of you. When this comes to your area, please join us. Let us be visible in that we are Members of Parliament; we are leaders; and we are part of the programme. [Applause.] These dates are strategically selected in consultation with the Department of Education to ensure that schooling is not disrupted and that they therefore fall within the school holiday period.

The key objectives of the Aqua-Enviro Youth Summit are to align activities and messages with those of the national calendar and to activities planned by the National Youth Development Agency during the month of June, and to integrate youth education programmes within these departments.

Another programme targeting young people is the 2020 Vision for Water and Sanitation Education programme. It is a research-based multicompetition programme aimed at educating learners about the efficient use of water and the protection of water resources, at health and hygiene for a healthy life, and at eradicating invasive alien species. Actually, we are also thinking of partnering with sheltered employment centres on the Working for Working programme in terms of invasive species. This is so that we can work with them. We know that they produce furniture from blue gum trees - as a previous member mentioned – and can make good school desks that last for 100 years. This initiative will produce young knowledgeable ambassadors who will safeguard water and pass on their expertise to future generations.

The resourcing of poor farmers is very important. In this era of economic recession and collusion in price-fixing by big companies resulting in unaffordable food prices, our department found it fitting in the interests of food security and responsible water usage to assist communities and emerging poor farmers that own land with resources and capacity-building at the developmental stage. We need to assist them.

This is done on the basis of understanding that the majority of the poor people in South Africa live in rural areas and their livelihood is sustained by subsistence farming, which relies on irrigation schemes. The support programme we introduced provides assistance in the form of grants for bulk-water-supply infrastructure, finance and rainwater harvesting, something we want to step up. This is important. We will have to have education awareness programmes not only on rainwater harvesting, but on harvesting water from the rivers. When it has rained the rivers are flooded, but that water ends up in the ocean. Why don't we try to harvest it?

The long-term objective is to enable them to take charge of their situations by allowing them, firstly, to provide the basic food requirements of their families, and then moving on to become independent and eventually full-scale commercial farmers.

The Moletele community in Limpopo are testimony to that. If replicated nationally, this programme has the potential to reduce poverty substantially. Through this policy, the Moletele community in Limpopo, who successfully reclaimed their land totalling 97 516 hectares, were the beneficiaries of the bulk water infrastructure that was set up at a cost of R26 million. The project, which has partnered with local commercial farmers to produce export quality fruit, resulted in the creation of 198 permanent jobs and 755 seasonal jobs and in an annual salary of R25 million for the community. [Applause.] It is important that we give support to the communities when they get their land.

However, we have challenges on issues such as crime. In the past few years, there have been reports of noncompliance, pollution of our rivers, abstraction of water, unauthorised construction of dams, discharge of waste into water resources and pollution incidents. Last year we ran a very successful blitz week, where the former Minister clamped down on the transgressors. This intervention led to successful cases in dealing with noncompliance across the sectors, industries, individual farmers, municipalities and other illegal users. But it is not only those who are polluting, we also must step up and protect our communities of not throwing things into the rivers. We continue to intensify these programmes as already indicated by Minister Sonjica in her speech.

The creation of the Department of Water and Environmental Affairs is a wise move that now brings the crime-fighting capacity of the Green Scorpions and the envisaged blue scorpions in the former Department of Water Affairs and Forestry under one roof. We believe the sharing of expertise will bring more criminals to book and also increase the rate of prosecution. And we encourage communities to be the first to go to the police because these things happen in their areas. We cannot achieve all of these objectives if the public does not have a full appreciation of the issues at hand.

Our well-known and successful programmes, like Vision 2020, play an important role in educating members of the public by conveying educational key messages. Key messages, among others, are that water is a scarce resource that requires a collective effort to conserve. It is in our interests as a department to play a leadership role in ensuring that we invest in building skills to manage our water.

Our Water for Growth and Development framework, amongst other things, calls for affective and relevant sectoral education and training as a response to the current skills shortage in the water sector.

We will intensify programmes that will attract the youth to water-related careers to ensure the sustainability of both infrastructure and water resources. That means that all of us must encourage communities when you see a tap dripping or a burst pipe not to say that that is the work of the municipality or of the Minister. This is the work of each and every citizen of this country to report these things immediately.

In conclusion, acknowledging that water is life, our department is committed to ensuring that we manage this strategic resource - water - for the benefit of the people of South Africa, and that we can achieve if we work together.

Lastly, I would like to thank Minister Sonjica for her experience gained in the department. Her experience is assisting us as we are building on it. I would like to thank the chairperson of the portfolio committee, a mother who understands these issues of water. No, she doesn't steal. I would like to add my voice to thanking our staff who are working tirelessly - day and night, holiday or not - because they give us support. They are our pillars and our advisers. Thank you. [Applause.]

Mr P M MATHEBE / VM/ END OF TAKE

The DEPUTY MINISTER OF WATER AND ENVIRONMENTAL AFFAIRS

Mr P M MATHEBE: Thank you, Chairperson. Hon member Ma Ndude, what a shame! You know, I can't believe that since you left the ANC, you have reversed so much in terms of political thinking, really! [Interjections.] But what can one expect from someone who is angry? Obviously, he or she can't think properly. She acts before thinking, that's why she is saying all this nonsense! [Interjections.] Shut up, you bald-headed stupid!

It really gladdens me ... [Interjections.].

Mr S B FARROW: Excuse me, Sir. On a point of order: I have never been insulted like that in this esteemed House as I have by that gentleman, that hon member. I'd ask him to retract that statement. He called me a "bald-headed stupid" individual. Now, decorum is what's lacking in this House, Chairperson. And I would ask you to take this very seriously and, if necessary, discipline the particular member in question and he must retract that forthwith. [Interjection.] [Applause.]

The CHAIRPERSON (Mr A Mlangeni): We have in the past appealed to members to use moderate language in this House and not to use language that would make people feel insulted or whatever. So I will ask Comrade Mathebe to please withdraw that statement.

Mr P M MATHEBE: Comrade Chair, I withdraw that statement.

The CHAIRPERSON (Mr A Mlangeni): Thank you very much. Proceed.

Mr P M MATHEBE: And they should also stop provoking me. [Laughter.]

The CHAIRPERSON (Mr A Mlangeni): Proceed with your statement. Thank you. [Interjections.] Order! Order, please! Continue with your statement. [Interjections.] This statement is withdrawn.

Mr P M MATHEBE: Thank you, Chair. Chairperson, it really gladdens me to hear the Minister say that they are taking stock of all the dams that are not providing water to adjacent communities. The Moutse community is one such example. Even though they are about 15 kilometres from the mighty Loskop Dam, they can only watch helplessly as the water passes through to the far-off areas of Marble Hall and Groblersdal and goes to the gardens of the rich, while they drink from the wells and subject themselves to waterborne diseases. I hope Mr Matukane, who is from the department, is also listening because he knows the area very well. He will be able to advise the Minister correctly.

When the vast majority of our people voted for the ANC, they did so consciously, saying: "Carry on with the good work of improving the quality of our lives." They did so despite deliberate disinformation, deceit and lies from those who want to cling to their past discriminatory "Swart gevaar" propaganda. [Applause.]

They said loudly, "Continue to ensure that South Africa belongs to all who live in it and who, equally, must enjoy its services," unlike in the past where the allocation of water rights was based on property ownership, in the clear knowledge that the majority of the people in this country do not even own one hectare of land.

Water is fundamental to life, as the Minister has already said. The human rights attached to water are indispensable for leading a healthy life in human dignity. Water is a prerequisite to the realisation of all other human rights. It is a scarce and unevenly distributed national resource that belongs to all our people. It is therefore difficult to quantify the cost of living without clean drinking water in terms of human suffering.

South Africa, like every other country on this continent, depends on its water resources to provide for its social and economic needs. Its scarcity and uneven distribution is, however, a limiting factor to the nation's economic production and growth.

Over the past 14 years, substantial progress has been made in providing universal access to water and sanitation in South Africa. Access to basic water infrastructure has increased from 59% in 1994 to 88% at the end of March 2008, and access to basic sanitation grew from 48% to 73%.

There are, however, several serious obstacles to securing water for growth and development in South Africa. And these include, among other things, invasive, alien plant species which tend to use more water than the indigenous plants in that they displace and decrease the mean annual run-off. They generally impact negatively on the integrity and functioning of both terrestrial and aquatic systems, thereby reducing the productive use of land.

Climate change could also worsen the impact even further. It is an accepted threat to the sustainability of water supplies although this impact cannot be quantified yet, which complicates the proper planning required to ensure sufficient future water supplies.

Another major concern in this regard is land-use practices. This includes the use of unsuitable agricultural practices and the impact that these have on water security.

Another threat are the wild fires and badly planned firebreaks which run amok, the acceleration and intensity of which destroy habitat and life and also impact negatively on water security.

In addition, acid mine drainage from abandoned mines, especially in the central and western basins of the Witwatersrand mine systems, cause ground-water and surface water pollution.

The declining quality of water in rivers and dams as a result of pollution result in a lack of oxygen in the water. The continual pollution of rivers and streams and the unlawful spilling of raw sewerage in the Vaal River systems - whether by accident or on purpose - is a case in point. In this regard, one can fully understand why the famous French marine biologist Jacques-Yves Cousteau said that from personal experience water and air, the two essential fluids on which all life depend, had become global garbage cans.

According to the World Resources Institute, at least 3,5 billion people, which is about half the world's population, will live in areas without water for agriculture, industry and human needs by the year 2025 – barely 15 years from now. It has also found that worldwide water quality conditions have degraded in almost all regions with intensive agriculture and in large urban and industrial areas.

Because of the discriminatory laws and practices of the past, most South Africans have not had equal access to water and the use of other resources. Our Constitution obliges us to ensure that everyone has the right of access to sufficient water. The ANC government has accepted this responsibility to ensure that the inequalities, with regard to access to the nation's water resources, are remedied.

The fundamental principle of our water-resource policy is the right to access clean water and security for all. Our policy recognises the economic value of water and the environment and advocates an economically, environmentally and politically sustainable approach to the management of our water resources and the collection, treatment and disposal of waste.

It has therefore, in line with the objectives of equitable and sustainable, social and economic development, progressively adopted a more comprehensive and holistic approach to the planning of interventions to resolve problems of inadequate water supply. This approach is in accordance with the requirements of national policies and legislation relating to the environment and is informed by international best practices.

The Water for Growth and Development framework was designed to take into account the relationship between water availability and many forms of economic activity, depending on the availability of water of specific levels of quality.

The framework, developed in 2008, aims to address specific challenges associated with water resource availability to enable projected economic growth and social service delivery programmes. It is therefore a planning programme to ensure continued water supply and which represents the ANC government's commitment to water security for our people, the economy and the environment. It presents a comprehensive response to the challenges facing South Africa, bearing in mind that water is a scarce resource and that a different mindset is required for its use and conservation.

Rachel Carson once said: "In an age when man has forgotten his origins and is blind even to his most essential needs for survival, water along with other resources has become the victim of his indifference."

Mr P M MATHEBE: We must all by mindful of water-use behaviour that impacts negatively on water resource quantity and quality. It is the duty of each of us in this House to facilitate and encourage the most efficient use of water and to promote major behavioural and attitude changes towards water conservation.

I conclude with the words of St Francis of Assisi who described what water means to us as mortal human beings, when he said:

Be praised, my Lord, through Sister Water;

She is very useful and humble, precious and pure.

I thank you. [Applause.]

Ms I C DITSHETELO / END OF TAKE

Mr P M MATHEBE

Mrs I C DITSHETELO: Mr Chairperson, the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry has to ensure the availability and supply of water at national level and facilitate equitable and sustainable social and economic development and adequate sanitation for all. Water should not be politicised. Everybody gets thirsty. No bounds about it.

Ground water protection and water resource quality management is a crucial component of this sector. However, media reports have strongly criticised the state of underground infrastructure, failing sewerage systems, civil engineering vacancies, limited water resources which may have an impact on the state of the water and sanitation sectors in this country. Millions of rand have been assigned for the upgrade, rehabilitation and renewal infrastructure.

The department must give clarity and updates of these infrastructure projects in terms of how municipalities will be assisted in this regard. What about the villages in the North West, such as Dinokana, where there have been demonstrations this week? Ntsweletsoku has been crying: "Water! Water!" for the past 10 years. The question is, if there was water before, what happened now? No services whatsoever!

By November 2008 ... [Time expired.] [Applause.]

Ms P BHENGU / /KB / END OF TAKE

Mrs I C DITSHETELO

Ms P BHENGU: Chairperson, distinguished guests and hon members, just how important water is for life on earth is neatly summed up by Mr Al Gore, former Vice President of the United States of America, in his book Earth in the Balance in which he says that –

Human beings are made up mostly of water, in roughly the same percentage as water is to the surface of the earth. Our tissues and membranes, our brains and hearts, our sweat and tears - all reflect the same recipe for life, in which efficient use is made of those ingredients available on the surface of the earth.
We are 23 percent carbon, 2.6 percent nitrogen, 1.4 percent calcium, 1.1 percent phosphorous, with tiny amounts of roughly three dozen other elements. But above all we are oxygen (61 percent) and hydrogen (10 percent) fused together in the
unique molecular combination known as water, which makes up 71 percent of the human body.

I suppose much the same can be said of animals. Over and above the fact that it is the main ingredient of human, animals and plant life, water is also the main component of all liquids we drink, to grow and cultivate the food we eat, and for our sanitation requirements, especially over the past 50 years when waterborne sanitation has become a necessity not a luxury.

The importance of water for the continued existence of human, animal and plant life on earth is therefore indisputable, and it is therefore absolutely necessary that we cherish it and have strategies in place for its conservation and judicious use.

In 1994, South Africa's newly elected democratic government inherited huge service backlogs, with respect to access to water supply and sanitation, from the apartheid regime. About 15 million people were without safe water supply and over 20 million without adequate sanitation services. Under the ANC government, the country has made remarkable progress with regard to accelerating the pace of service provision, restructuring and refocusing the entire water sector.

Having ensured access to water for an additional 10 million people, South Africa is well on track to wipe out the infrastructure backlog for basic water supply by 2008, exceeding the Millennium Development Goals target.

Although substantial challenges remain in addressing historical inequalities in access to both water supply and sanitation, and in sustaining service provision over the long term, the following key features distinguish the South African water and sanitation sector from other countries: the existence of an important institutional tier between the national and local government in the form of water boards; strong linkages between water supply and sanitation and water resource management through these water boards; a strong government commitment to high service standards and to high levels of investment subsidies to achieve those standards; a policy of free basic water and sanitation; relatively stable and successful private-sector participation in water supply; and, lastly, a strong water industry with a track record in innovation.

Integrated water resource management does not provide a complete solution to all the dimensions of poverty, but no strategy for poverty eradication will be successful unless it includes strategies for managing water.

The provision of basic water and sanitation services is an essential element of the contribution of water to poverty eradication, because it addresses the issues of health and hygiene. Providing free basic services goes some way towards making water affordable to the poor. It is, therefore, essential that water-related policies be implemented in ways that give special attention to ensuring that the poor can meet their needs and that they are given a voice in decisions that affect them.

In order to maintain the advances made by the government, it is most important to ensure that programmes are formulated for water and sanitation targets to be met. The water resources management programme ensures that the country's water resources are protected, used, developed, conserved, distributed, managed and controlled in a sustainable and equitable manner for the benefit of all our people. The budget of this programme increased from R3,5 billion in the 2008-09 financial year to R3,9 billion in the 2009-10 financial year, which is a nominal increase of 10,4%.

In the state of the nation address on 3 June 2009, our hon President, Mr Jacob Zuma, said:

South Africa, being a dry country, requires urgent action to mitigate adverse environmental changes and to ensure the provision of water to citizens. Amongst various programmes, we will implement the Water for Growth and Development strategy, which will strengthen water management. For as long as there are communities without clean water, decent shelter or proper sanitation ... We shall not rest, and we dare not falter, in our drive to eradicate poverty.

To this, I can only say, "Rest assured, my President. We shall not rest and we shall not falter. We have promised, and we shall deliver." The ANC supports the budget. I thank you. [Applause.]

Mr L L BOSMAN / END OF TAKE

Ms P BHENGU

Afrikaans:

Mnr L L BOSMAN: Voorsitter, agb Minister en Adjunkminister, oor die afgelope dekade het die druk op die natuurlike waterhulpbron, as gevolg van primêre landbou, mynbou en industriële gebruik, sodanig verhoog dat die beskikbaarheid, en die gehalte, van die waterhulpbron onder ernstige verdenking is en potensiële gevare vir die omgewing, gesondheid en die mens inhou.

Dit bring ook die uitvoerstatus van landbouprodukte in gedrang. Die probleem rondom watergehalte word vererger deur swak, of geen, dienslewering op die vlak van plaaslike regering en gebrekkige sanitasiegeriewe, vir 'n groot deel van die bevolking, wat ontoereikend is of glad nie bestaan of funksioneel is nie en rou riool wat gevolglik op 'n groot skaal in riviere en strome beland.

Oorhoofse gesag en beheer van die betrokke staatsdepartemente, om toe te sien dat plaaslike owerhede aan hulle mandaat uitvoering gee, ontbreek.

English:

In the Department of Water and Environmental Affairs report to the portfolio committee, it admitted that 30% of sewage plants require immediate intervention to avoid crisis situations, such as the outbreak of waterborne diseases. It also states that, in the short term, maintenance is required by more than 66% of the plants as they are in a stressful situation at this point.

Afrikaans:

Dieselfde beginsels ontbreek ook by die staat se verantwoordelik om toe te sien dat mynbou aan die vereistes van omgewingswetgewing voldoen. Die gevolg hiervan is dat belangegroepe, soos die landbou, die koste van besoedeling moet absorbeer, in plaas daarvan, soos die Minister uitgewys het, dat die koste deur die ontwikkelaars verreken word, met ander woorde, die beginsel dat die besoedelaar betaal.

Kommer bestaan dat die regering oorhoofs in gebreke bly om omgewingsverwante kwessies holisties aan te spreek, en 'n oënskynlike gebrek aan die koördinering van regeringsbeleid op interdepartementele vlak bestaan ook.

English:

The effect of mining activities on water quality is of extreme importance at this stage. Commercial agriculture contributes in a significant way to the economy of South Africa, to job opportunities in rural areas and to food security. As such, we believe that it is important to minimise the possible negative impact of mining activities on the farming sector. One of the ways in which this can be achieved is by consulting with landowners timeously and effective, prior to the granting of prospecting and other mining licences by the Department of Minerals and Energy.

Special consideration should be given to the possible negative impact of the proposed activities on water quality in agricultural production and food security. High-potential land, for example irrigation land, should preferably be excluded from mining and be subject to proper environmental impact assessments and approved rehabilitation plans before it is granted.

Afrikaans:

Voorsitter, die nie-verhandeling van waterregte ondermyn landbou se bydrae tot voedselproduksie, ekonomiese groei en werkskepping. Besproeiingsboere wat waterregte wil verhandel moet, in terme van die vereistes van artikel 27 van die Nasionale Waterwet, goedkeuring daarvoor van die Departement van Water- en Omgewingsake verkry. Die bepalings van die Wet vereis 'n omvattende evaluering deur die Departement van Water- en Omgewingsake oor die effektiewe aanwending van water, die bevordering van die sosiale belang en regstellende aksie.

In praktyk beweer die Departement van Water- en Omgewingsake dat aansoeke vir verhandeling wel omvattend beskou word, maar in werklikheid word daar bloot 'n siening geneem oor die swart ekonomiese bemagtingselement waaraan daar, na hul mening, in die praktyk blykbaar nie voldoen word nie. Die gevolg van die benadering deur die Departement van Water- en Omgewingsake is dat waterregte tussen boere gewoon nie verhandel nie en, gevolglik, ook nie volledig benut word nie. Indien die verhandeling van waterregte as 'n armlengte-transaksie toegelaat sou word, is dit gewoon 'n ekonomiese werklikheid dat produksie en werkskepping sal toeneem.

Ten slotte, Suid-Afrika se waterhulpbronne is 'n nasionale bate wat ten beste vir die mededingendheid en die volhoubaarheid van voedsel- en veselproduksie benut moet word. Vir die doel moet dit doeltreffend beskerm en bestuur word. Besoedelingsbeheer, veral ten opsigte van water, is 'n aangeleentheid wat 'n nasionale prioriteit moet wees. Die situasie is besig om krisisafmetings, ten opsigte van voedselveiligheid en siektebeheer aan te neem, en aspekte soos beter beheer oor informele nedersettings se afvalstorting en ontoereikende watersuiwering deur plaaslike owerhede moet dringend aandag geniet. Ek dank u. [Applous.]

Mr M JOHNSON / /Mia /END OF TAKE

Mr L L BOSMAN

Mr M JOHNSON: Chairperson, indeed, a lot has been said. This is a department that is parting ways: Water on the one hand, and Forestry on the other. Yesterday, at a dinner, the Minister of Minerals and Energy talked about Siamese twins that were being separated, a surgery that must be done. The question is whether the surgery is indeed going to be successful.

We trust that this time, especially with the departments of Water Affairs and Environmental Affairs having been combined, we are going to have a lot of air that will bring energy and oxygen to that water. Those Siamese twins are certainly not going to be the ones we are seeing here in Parliament - the DA and Cope - which continue, endlessly, to make all kinds of statements about the ANC's progress. We'll watch them. They are starting, and they are certainly going to end at some point, if not disappear. [Laughter.] [Applause.]

A lot has been said about water ... [Interjections.] That has to do with disappearance. Clearly, it is scarce. It becomes a clarion call for all of us: that we educate all of us and that we be educated by all to save and preserve water. A lot has been said. I don't need to overemphasise the issue. We have a future to protect for future generations. The summary that is being made about the preciousness of water is: "Water is life."

A friend of mine based in Johannesburg is involved in a catering business, on the one hand, and a waste management business, on the other. The same goes for water. Whether you are eating you must use water; and whether you are talking waste, you must use water. So, in a nutshell, water indeed is life.

The quality of water must be about drinking it and bathing in it so that we do not have children, as we have had in Motherwell, developing skin rashes owing to the quality of water there. If you are sick, you are told to drink a glass of water.

Mr N SINGH: [Inaudible.]

Mr M JOHNSON: That includes you, Mr Singh. I'm sure you are talking from experience. [Laughter.]

You are also going to be talking about religion here. My mother is a faith healer in the Apostolic Faith Mission Church and they use lots of water. Also, with regard to sport, the golfers here, including Baba Mlangeni, know that the golf courses have to use lots of water. Education too, including among ourselves here in Parliament, cannot survive without water. [Interjections.]

The challenge that we must confront is that where there is a shortage, all spheres of government must work in the interests of the quality of water services. We dare not fail the poor of our people, the poor who cannot afford bottled mineral water, the poor that travel long distances to fetch that water, the poor that continue to suffer from waterborne diseases. We dare not fail them. In summary, municipalities, both large and small, must ask for help where there is none in order to provide such a basic service to all. [Applause.]

Regarding our own municipality here in Cape Town, we learnt that two years ago, during the electricity blackouts, a maintenance problem was identified and that it had everything to do with lack of skills. This is not aimed at attacking anybody, but stating the fact: the fact here being that you need to have had that municipality spending the money that was not spent. This is precisely because of this lack of skills; a simple fact that must be told.

With regard to forestry, the shortages that are alluded to must not add to the overall agricultural challenge of being a net importer of food. This would lead, naturally, to price instability, as a factor.

Among other challenges, we are confronted with in forestry are the veld and forestry fires. They add salt to the wound I have just made mention of.

Climate change was mentioned with regards to the shortage of forests. We all need clean air and to protect our planet through forestry for generations to come. Postsettlement programmes must include, among other things, encouraging communities not to sell off their land and resources attached to it. Members of those communities must be encouraged to enter into joint ventures with the manufacturers that seek to engage in business activities in terms of the forestry sector transformation charter.

Restitution and its prize challenges must be addressed speedily. Whilst we accept that land was stolen ... [Interjections.] [Applause.] .. the path of negotiation remains the best way to solve those problems. Do not push the ANC too far. Do not want to continue stealing in broad daylight by increasing and inflating the prices of some of those pieces of land that the government wants to buy from you. That is called broad daylight stealing. [Applause.]

In conclusion, we have a job to do. Simply put: improve the people's lives for the better. The ANC makes policies at its conferences and that is not a secret. The ANC government refines those policies in accordance with the legal jargon, and it is expected of some of our administrators here - in fact, not some, but all - to implement ANC policies, unashamedly so. [Applause.] We are told that we have the best Constitution and best policies, but implementation remains a challenge. It cannot therefore continue to be a challenge forever. Again, no amount of hiding behind any contract shall be tolerated. The President's clarion call is still reverberating in our ears: "Akusheshwe". The ANC support Budget Vote 34. Enkosi. [Applause.]

The MINISTER OF WATER AND ENVIRONMENTAL AFFAIRS Ag / END OF TAKE

Mr M JOHNSON

The MINISTER OF WATER AND ENVIRONMENTAL AFFAIRS: Chairperson, I must say that I am encouraged with the level of commitment to a very important commodity in this country - water – and the level of activism. I only hope that it will not end in this House, but will be extended to our constituencies, in all respects. This was one of the best debates I have listened to, and, really, the passion is coming through from all the members. I want to thank you all for enriching us with your comments and inputs. [Applause.]

Of course, politics in water have been there since time immemorial. Part of what we are doing is redressing the imbalances of the past we inherited from the apartheid regime. Even water was an exclusive commodity of the few. That is a fact.

I was listening to a lot of members here talking about pollution. This is very important, but I want to encourage them to read the White Paper on Water, which contains the policy for water in this country. It suggests a number of water uses, water for energy generation, industrial activities, domestic use, agriculture, hospitals, economic activities, nature, conservation, forestry and so on.

These highlight the competing interests for water, which is a scarce commodity in the country. I am worried about the myopia of members confining themselves to one sector that seems to be the only one that is polluting water, and yet there are others. I am worried because we may be allowing other users to get away with murder. In the context of water conservation, demand management. In the context of your own oversight, let us have oversight over everybody and all industries. That is the first thing I want to raise on this matter.

Secondly, I am sure you must have seen me shaking my head, Ms Lovemore, when you spoke about the mining forum. It is exactly that reason I am raising here. Why do you only focus on mining when other people are there? If we are creating a forum, it should be a broad one, so that you bring all the culprits on board and engage all of them. For me, an integrated approach would be the best if we want to deal with the issue of pollution, much as I appreciate your point about pollution made by the mines. We have already indicated that the "polluter pays" principle will apply. But it must apply to everybody. I think that is the kind of justice, fairness and balance that we need to bring into this debate.

A very important issue is that of the catchment management agencies. Bodies that are important for water resource management are also important for the democratisation of the water sector, especially when is comes to bringing transparency to this. We have had a problem of resources, financial and human resources, in establishing these very important entities. There is a report dealing with this, and I would urge the committee to prioritise the tabling of this report, because it is ready. It will give an opportunity to all members to get a sense of the challenges related to the establishment of the catchment management agencies.

When it comes to the filling of vacancies, indeed we are not ...

IsiXhosa:

Asohlunga kwezinye isectors ...

English:

It is not a matter confined to the Department of Water Affairs only. It is a matter that affects the country as a whole and all the sectors. We have a problem with critical skills. But, with water, we are lucky to have the SA Institution of Civil Engineering, which is an organisation for civil engineers, and the Water Institute of Southern Africa, an association for water specialists. We started engaging with these bodies some time ago. Out of that engagement came a project of deploying expertise. We requested them to help us deploy expertise where it was needed. That programme started with the deployment of 21 engineers, if I remember correctly. It is still there, and now it has been extended to include the participation of the Development Bank of Southern Africa.

That programme is called Siyenza Manje. We identify a municipality that has resources but does not have the technical capacity to deal with those challenges. It will never be adequate, but there are measures and mechanisms that we are embarking on to deal with that problem.

Schools and clinics have been given special attention for sanitation and water. I am told that the clinics have already reached universal access as far as both issues are concerned, but we are still busy with the schools. You will also appreciate that you cannot give some schools water, because they are still mud schools. The very structures still need to be built with bricks and mortar. It may well be that some of the schools that are still outstanding are those that still need to be built in a formal way. But I take your point. The programme is there and we are proceeding with that.

On the issues that were raised about the metros, again, there is a study that has been conducted. There is a lot to say. You can see that this is all I can share with you in 13 minutes. I want to encourage members to begin writing questions, so that we are able to provide the necessary details, because some of these issues are really detailed and you need technical responses for them. I would really encourage you to ask questions, because it would empower all of us.

I have already alluded to the issue of infrastructure. It is a challenge and there are programmes dealing with that. But I think we must not lose sight of the fact that the design capacity of this infrastructure, which was meant to serve a few, is now exhausted. We have expanded the services to our people, and they can no longer hold. Hence the department, in its wisdom, decided to allocate an amount of R787 billion towards refurbishment, maintenance and the development of infrastructure, to deal particularly with this problem.

It is a problem, it is there, and it is coupled with the absence of technical capacity in the municipalities that are mandated constitutionally to deal with the infrastructure.

That technical capacity does not end with engineering capacity. Even financial management in some municipalities is an issue. As a result, the municipal infrastructure grant is not expanded, as it should have been, because of the lack of that financial management capacity. All of these things are things that we are working on, and they are work in progress.

The advisory council used to be there. We will revitalise it. But we are also taking advice from the Water Research Commission and other such bodies.

Dam safety rehabilitation is a programme; it has a budget. We are dealing with the issue of the dams. But, really, we cannot bring contradictions into this debate. In one breath, we are saying that South Africa is a water-scarce country. In the next breath, we are saying let's destroy the dams. We can't decommission dams. What is important, and what we need to apply our minds to, I agree, is rehabilitation. If we don't deal with rehabilitation, then it will affect the quality of the water. Hartebeespoort Dam is a case in point.

There is a budget of R1,25 billion for the purpose of rehabilitating 162 dams of the 287 dams of the department. That programme will run until the financial year 2012-13. It includes addressing all of the issues that you have raised. Surely, I have to leave out some issues, because there are so many.

There was an issue raised about the rural areas. I quite agree with that in the context of ensuring justice. Also, water is a human rights issue. We have to prioritise our rural communities, some of which have been excluded from getting this service. Some people have not had this service from the day they were born, and some of them are 90 years old.

I go to Tarkastad to deliver sanitation services. There was an 84-year-old woman. When she took the key, she cried, because she said, "For the first time I will now have a waterborne sanitation system." So I am saying the rural areas should be our priority in terms of water. [Applause.] Of course, we cannot have the Jozini Dam being a white elephant. We have to make sure that the Jozini Dam delivers to the people of the area.

The CHAIRPERSON (Ms M N Oliphant): One minute, hon Minister.

The MINISTER OF WATER AND ENVIRONMENTAL AFFAIRS: Inyaka Dam has been completed. There you are; there is one minute left. There is a lot that I would really like to say. I say thank you very much to members.

Moutse has water, and we are helping the municipality with all that needs to happen, so that we can get water to go to the people.

Lastly, on poverty alleviation, Comrade Bhengu: I cannot agree with you more. That is why we have already started water harvesting. But, you know, with water harvesting, again, we are trying to break the rural divide, and I don't think we should confine water harvesting to the rural areas only. It should start with us, if we are really serious about equality.

Thank you, Chairperson. I would have said a lot more. I really thank the members for their inputs. They were all empowered, across political parties. Thank you very much. [Applause.]


Debate concluded.

The CHAIRPERSON (Ms M N Oliphant): Thank you very much, hon Minister. Hon members, I just want to remind you that at 14:00 there will be a sitting in the National Assembly to debate Vote No 1: The Presidency.

The Committee rose at 12:25.

JE / END OF TAKE


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